For 2 Solo Dancers Nationals Means Hard Work and Fun

Sarah Fuller (left) and Sara Preston Davidson (right).

As with every solo ice dance competition that has gone before, Tampa Bay Skating Academy’s Sarah Fuller and Sara Preston Davidson put in long hours of practice with one goal in mind: to do their best in the moment.

Training at the rink between seven to 10 hours a week – with about half of those spent on solo dance – the two ice dancers focused on getting the steps and the patterns down perfectly.

But they both knew no matter what happened when they went to the 2012 National Solo Dance Championships at the Colorado Springs World Arena last month, the experience alone would be gold.   

Sarah Fuller

Fuller, who competed at the pre-silver level in pattern dance and the intermediate level in free dance, placed sixth in free dance. 

She made it to the championship round in pattern dance, placing fourth out of eight and skating away with the pewter medal.

“I was so happy I got a medal,” the 15-year-old said. “I was nervous because there were some good girls there. But I did really well on my European Waltz.”  

Sara Preston Davidson

Davidson, who competed at the pre-bronze level in pattern dance and the juvenile level in free dance, placed fifth in pattern dance and sixth in free dance. To make it to the final championship round in each category, skaters had to finish in the top four. 

“Just being at the competition felt good,” Davidson, 12, said. “I love performing the dances and I got to meet a lot of new people. I’m definitely going to do it next year because it was really fun.”

More than 200 figure skaters from all over the United States participated in the second annual national solo dance competition, which is considered to be the “nationals” for solo ice dancers.

Fuller and Davidson worked hard all year to receive their invitation to make the trip. Each had to compete in qualifying solo dance competitions during the year. Only those who finished in the top six in pattern dance or free dance in each of the three regions advanced to the national competition, which is hosted by the Broadmoor Skating Club in Colorado.

The two girls competed in the Eastern division. In pattern dance, Fuller tied for first out of about 20 skaters. In free dance, she tied for third out of about a dozen intermediate free dance level skaters. 

Davidson placed fifth out of about 20 in pattern dance and third out of about 16 skaters in free dance to win a chance to compete nationally in both categories.

Both figure skaters are coached in ice dance by Olympic medalist Jim Millns. Fuller, who has been skating for 13 years, started ice dancing two years ago. Davidson has been skating for eight years and launched her solo dance career seven months ago.  

Solo ice dance is gaining more recognition as a competitive sport. Last year, skaters only competed in pattern dance, which combines the athleticism of ice skating with the artistry of ballroom dance. This year, they added the free dance which includes twizzles, spins, step sequences and edge moves. The free dance is similar to freestyle programs but without the jumps.

For Davidson, competing at the World Arena, an 8,000 seat multi-purpose arena, home to world-class concerts and events, was a first. 

“I was nervous because it’s a really big rink,” she said. “The ice is really flowy, like you push once and you go all the way across.”

Fuller, who last year was the Pre Bronze National Solo Dance Champion, also had to make some adjustments when she skated at the Olympic-size rink.  

“I had to get more speed to make the patterns longer because the (World Arena) rink is more oval than our rink,” she said.  

Both skaters agree solo dance is fun but for Fuller the fun is heightened by the ‘friendliness’ of all the other skaters.

“No one’s real competitive about it,” she said. “Everyone’s so nice and they wish you good luck and really mean it.” 

The two skaters made sure they took in the sights in and around the Pikes Peak region during their week-long trip. Davidson discovered her visit to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, where she took pictures of Anasazi Indian dwellings, placed her a step ahead of her classmates back at school.

Pictures of the dwellings that the school had were outdated.  “The ones we took were from now. It was really cool,” she said.

Davidson’s mom, Kathy, was thrilled to blend school with skating.

“It’s nice that with all the travel involved with competing in figure skating we get to do the whole education thing, too,”  she said. 

Even though the Indian exhibit was fun, Davidson said it didn’t top her list of fun things to do.

“The most fun was the party afterwards because it was on the ice and we played pin the hockey stick on the hockey player,” she said. The game is similar to pin the tail on the donkey.

Fuller’s high point, though, came off the ice.

“The best part was staying in a cabin in the mountains,” she said. “I almost pet a deer!” 

Both skaters are setting their sights on future competitions. Meanwhile, it’s back to the rink for lessons and practice.